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Senior U.S. official explains to S. Korea economic initiative against China

Diplomacy 14:16 June 05, 2020

By Song Sang-ho

SEOUL, June 5 (Yonhap) -- A senior U.S. diplomat on Friday explained to South Korea America's initiative aimed at shifting global supply chains away from China, the foreign ministry said, amid Seoul's efforts to steer clear of rising tensions between the two major powers.

Keith Krach, undersecretary of state for economic growth, energy and the environment, touched on the Economic Prosperity Network (EPN) initiative during a phone call with South Korean Second Vice Foreign Minister Lee Tae-ho.

Krach has been spearheading the EPN, which he said consists of like-minded countries, companies and civil societies that will operate under the same set of "democratic values" -- in an allusion to operating principles that China may balk at.

"Undersecretary Krach explained various international economic issues that the U.S. is interested in, including the Economic Prosperity Network, and the two sides agreed to continue consultations over those issues," the ministry said in a press release.

In response to a question from Yonhap News Agency during a teleconference last month, Krach confirmed that he had already briefed South Korea on the economic drive during the Senior Economic Dialogue (SED), an annual vice ministerial session between the allies, in November.

The U.S.' push for the EPN has been posing a nettlesome geopolitical challenge to Seoul, which has been striving to maintain close ties with both Washington, its longstanding security partner, and Beijing, its top trading partner.

The United States has been forging ahead with the EPN despite concerns the initiative, which seeks to restructure global supply chains centered on China, could further escalate geopolitical tensions between the two great powers.

Friction between the U.S. and China have already been escalating, as they have traded barbs over the origins of the new coronavirus, trade, maritime security and not to mention China's security legislation seen as a scheme to tighten its grip on Hong Kong.

In Friday's call, Lee and Krach also agreed to seek to hold this year's edition of the SED in a face-to-face format later this year. To prepare for the SED, the two sides will hold a director-general-level videoconference late this month.

In the phone talks, Krach also expressed gratitude to South Korea for accepting U.S. President Donald Trump's invitation for President Moon Jae-in to join the Group of Seven summit in September.

This photo, taken on Nov. 6, 2019, shows South Korean Vice Foreign Minister Lee Tae-ho (R) and his U.S. counterpart, Keith Krach, shaking hands before their Senior Economic Dialogue in Seoul. (Yonhap)


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